One of the common types of wrongful termination cases based on the employer’s violation of medical leave and disability laws is terminating an employee who is supposed to return to work at some future date after being out for several months or longer, and after extending his originally granted leave once or a few times. This is considered to be an illegal disability discrimination. Some employers misinterpret the law and believe that just because that employee was not able to return to work on the originally provided date of return, it means that he/she will probably not return to work on the new date either, and therefore they are free to terminate his employment. Employers rely on one California case that states that an employer does not have to provide indefinite leave of absence to an employee. However, these employers often interpret the holding of that case way too broadly, and they don’t realize that extending leave once of twice is not the same as being on leave “indefinitely”. More often than not, terminating an employee and not allowing him to return to work by the expiration of that leave is illegal, especially if the employer is a large company who can afford, and who has various resources and mechanisms for allowing the employee with a disability to be off work for a longer period of time.
To make sure that you have a solid medical leave or discrimination case and to avoid having it dismissed in court, it is very important that if you are terminated before your leave expires and while you are out on that leave, you obtain a letter from your doctor that states that as of a certain date you were actually released to return to work to full duty or light duty. That date can be before or after your termination date. This will prevent the employer from dismissing the case by arguing that you were not “a qualified individual within the meaning of ADA or FEHA” because you were unable to work and are still unable to work because of your disability or medical condition; and, therefore they did not commit any violation.